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Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MIPT

U.S.-Russian Relations in Nuclear Arms Reductions: Current State and Prospects

by Anatoli Diakov, Pyotr Romashkin, Timur Kadyshev, Eugene Miasnikov and Pavel Podvig

Executive Summary | Reviews (in Russian) | Transcript of presentation (in Russian) | Complete report (in Russian, PDF file)

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In June 2001 the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology has published a new report "U.S.-Russian Relations in Nuclear Arms Reductions: Current State and Prospects" (in Russian, PDF format, 350 Kb), ed. by Anatoli Diakov. The report is addressed to a broad audience - political scientists, military, technical and arms control experts, diplomats and general public, interested in problems of international security.

See also a transcript of the presentation at the National Press Institute on July 3, 2001 (in Russian).

To obtain the report please contact (095)-408-6381 or via e-mail.

U.S.-Russian Relations in Nuclear Arms Reductions: Current State and Prospects, ed. by Anatoli Diakov, Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Dolgoprudny, 52 pages. See also the complete report in Russian (in PDF format, 350 Kb).

Executive Summary

U.S.-Russian Relations in Nuclear Arms Reductions: Current State and Prospects

The study analyses current state of the Russian-American dialogue on strategic arms reductions, considers several possible scenarios for further development of this process, and formulates recommendations that would promote deep cuts of strategic nuclear arms. The report consists of Introduction, four Chapters, Conclusion, and Appendices.

The Introduction outlines current state of the US-Russian strategic arms reductions process. Main reason for the US to transform their previous approach to strategic arms reductions is the breakup of the Soviet Union. For the US, the disappearance of their main rival relieved them from the threat of nuclear cataclysm, and they lost the interest in the arms control process that was created by US together with the USSR. Widespread in the American arms control community became an opinion that today much greater threat to the US is Russian weakness rather than strength. Russia cannot compete with the US in strategic arms any more because of economy hardships. It cannot maintain the whole military complex that was inherited from the Soviet Union. Moreover, the transition of the Russian economy from administrative to market system is being done in a way that is far from optimal, which resulted in a collapse. Russian cannot maintain strategic nuclear forces at a level of 3000-3500 warheads set by the START II Treaty.

The end of the Cold War and breakup of the Soviet Union changed the nature of the US-Russian relations. Nevertheless, although leadership of both countries declared their striving for relations based on the principles of partnership, they still are far from such. Moreover, both sides understand now each other's concerns and motivations much less than they used to during the Cold War. The next couple of years will be the deciding ones for the future of strategic arms reductions process. Either the two nuclear superpowers will keep moving to the deep cuts of nuclear arms, and other nuclear states will join them, or this process will be destroyed.

Chapter 1 analyses options for transformation of the US-Russian mutual nuclear deterrence. Despite the end of ideological confrontation, elements of nuclear policy developed during the Cold War period are still in force in both countries, and their strategic nuclear forces remain on hair-trigger alert. However, since the nature of the US-Russian relationship has essentially changed since the end of the Cold War, there is both a strong need and an opportunity to develop a comprehensive program for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in their relations. Such a program should be based on the already negotiated arms control agreements and strict protection of the principle of equal security for both sides and enhancing the strategic stability. In this context, the problem of transforming mutual nuclear deterrence with protection of its stabilizing aspects is extraordinarily important.

The solution of the problem could be found in implementation of the complex of measures that would improve mutual confidence in conjunction with enhancing the survivability of the US and Russia's strategic nuclear forces. The complex of confidence measures should include measures concerning transparency in nuclear warhead deployment and elimination of their excess, cooperation in enhancing early warning of ballistic missile launches, deployment of operational warheads for short-range systems on the territory of the owner state only and developing transparency in their holding, cessation or diminishing the scale of Trident submarines operations in the North Pacific and North Atlantic.

Chapter 2 analyses the trends in transformation of the US military and nuclear strategy. US military doctrine provides for participation of their armed forces in conflicts in any place on the Globe, which presumes the possession of superiority over any feasible adversary. To that end, the deterrence has to be expanded by such a defense of the armed forces, territory, and allies, which would deprive potential adversary of the ability to effectively use weapons of mass destruction. Thus, the US proceed from the necessity to protect themselves from the threat of ballistic missile attack, and believe that BMD can help to solve this problem.

The chapter provides a detailed analysis of the current state and existing plans of the development of the US strategic arms, as well as of the programs of maintenance of their nuclear arsenal, development of missile defenses and precision-guided munitions. Results of this analysis provide the reasons to assume that Washington took a course on the use of force in order to establish military and political superiority over the World. If the arms control process continues, the US efforts will most probably be aimed at aggravation of the disbalance stated in the START II Treaty.

Chapter 3 considers in details current state and plans for development of the Russian strategic nuclear forces. In the view of limited economic abilities, to keep its nuclear arsenal Russia has to extend as far as possible service life of its missiles that are not subject to elimination under START II Treaty. This measure would help to optimize the spendings on the maintenance of strategic nuclear forces for the next 7-10 years. However, development and deployment of new missiles is necessary in order to ensure Russian national security after 2010. At the same time, possibility of the breakup of the arms control negotiations process has to be taken into account.

Analyses of financial needs for the development of the Russian strategic nuclear forces shows that keeping spendings on current level coupled with reduction of arsenal down to 1500 warheads will ensure country's deterrent capabilities for the next 10-15 years. However, this level of spending will not allow to influence on the US strategic course or to keep Washington's interest in preservation of the arms control negotiations.

Chapter 4 analyses three possible scenarios of the further strategic arms reduction process and formulates practical recommendations for Russian policymakers. The first scenario is based on assumptions that the 1972 ABM Treaty will be abandoned by the US, and that the verification regime based on the START I Treaty will be destroyed. While Russia has no real capability to block Washington's decision on deploying the NMD, it does not make sense for Moscow to take a strong confrontational position. Rather, further strategic arms reduction should proceed in a unilateral manner. Russia will be free from the START I and II treaties constrains, and therefore will be able to develop its strategic forces in an optimal manner by retaining the multiple-warhead missiles banned under START II Treaty and building new ones. Russia should not change its current plan to reduce nuclear arsenal to 1500 strategic nuclear warheads. Under of this scenario, maintaining several hundred survivable nuclear weapons would allow Russia to effectively support strategic stability over the next decade or beyond.

The second scenario presupposes continuation of the START process in exchange to Russian agreement to amend the ABM Treaty or to Russia' restrained reaction on the US unilateral decision to withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty. At the same time, along with continuation of the CTR program, certain US concessions are feasible during the START III negotiations. However, there is a little chance that Russia can succeed in elimination of the US breakout potential. Washington will uphold the position of formal reduction of its nuclear arsenal - by reducing the number of ICBMs, downloading SLBMs and shifting bombers from nuclear to conventional roles. US will insist that launchers removed from counting as well as downloaded warheads are stored nearby rather than eliminated (and can therefore be uploaded back in very short period).

Although this scenario provides for preservation of the negotiation process and does not exclude Russia's keeping numeric parity with the US, under this scenario Moscow will very unlikely be able to negotiate a well-balanced START III Treaty. Even if US accepts Russian proposal to set a limit of 1500 warheads, they will keep the ability to quickly increase the number of deployed warheads. This ability, coupled with the deployed missile defenses will undermine deterrence capability of Russian strategic nuclear forces. This is the price that Russia would have to pay for continuation of strategic arms reduction process.

The third scenario assumes the achievement of a compromise agreement, basic elements of which would be:

Achieving an agreement along these lines could satisfy both sides. It allows deployment of NMD and responds to US concerns related with the rogue states. Such an agreement would also minimize Russian concerns that the US is going to obtain overwhelming superiority and eliminate Russia's deterrent capability.

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